I’ll always associate my first time in Brussels with the Belgian bank Dexia; for days prior to the trip, Paris was abuzz with news of the bank’s demise.
When the lovely Belgian couple on the train asked what we were looking forward to the most in Brussels, I almost said the Dexia tower – suddenly I wanted to see what a failing bank looked like, but I said the Manneken-Pis, of course.
I loved every bit about Brussels, even getting there was fun…
Seriously, if I lived in Europe I’d visit a new city every weekend – travelling around Europe by train is so convenient and painless. The journey from Paris Nord to Brussels Midi took a relaxing 1:20mins.
It was still early when we arrived, so we found a quiet spot at Galeries Royales St. Hubert and had an unhurried breakfast.
We spent the first part of the day sightseeing, we went through Palace Royale, Palais de Justice, Parc du Cinquantenaire and the triumphal arch, AutoWorld and the Great Mosque of Brussels.
Then to the magnificent Berlaymont Building, home of the European Commission and explored the rest of the European district.
We then ventured further away from the city to Heysel Park to see the Atomium.
The second part of our day was spent in the shopping district, starting out at Boulevard de Waterloo a wide street lined with trees and luxury shops with beautiful window displays.
But first, we chanced upon Parc d’Egmont and decided to take a little break.
Tucked away from busy streets and boulevards, this lovely park is a refuge of calm and respite.
This was my favourite moment of the trip, and the L’Orangerie du Parc d’Egmont.
The Avenue Louise area has a good variety of restaurants and stores; notable French, Italian and (of course,) Belgian designers/brands line the street.
It’s a nice area to wander about; nice long stretch of street, with wonderful architecture and lots to see, and if you got tired, you could always take a break at the bar at the Sofitel Brussels Le Louise – This was quite exciting for me because I hadn’t been to a Sofitel since Mammy Yoko (when it was a Sofitel).
For the final leg our day, we made our way towards the Grand Place determined to get all the touristy things out of the way, we saw and took pictures of/with the Manneken-Pis and got souvenirs.
I sadly didn’t try waffles (in the touristy areas) because someone had one and declared “I’ve had better Belgian waffles at the airport in Amsterdam”
I loved the grand and impressive Grand Place! Definitely the most stunning square I’ve ever seen – the gothic and baroque architecture, impressive gold gildings… and the people – the atmosphere there is amazing.
We walked the cobblestoned and winding streets along the shops and outdoor cafÃ©s of Grasmarkt, and forgot to have dinner until it was too late.
We ended our day at the CathÃ©drale Saints-Michel-et-Gudule, a beautiful cathedral on a hill with magnificent stained glass windows, sculptures and artwork. I couldn’t imagine a more perfect finish to our day.
If you’re in Brussels for a day…
Galerie du Roi 9
L’Orangerie du Parc d’Egmont
Crystal Lounge at Sofitel Brussels Le Louise
40 Avenue de la Toison d Or